Intramuscular Stimulation (IMS)
Our goal is to have all of our physiotherapists become Certified Gunn IMS practitioners. Victoria Physiotherapists Penny Salmas, Jennifer Kolot, Jenna Peters, Kim Lobb, Lindsay Baker, Brad Curry, Faralay Vander Schilden, Jessica Shave and Kira Crover are all Certified Gunn IMS practitioners at Shelbourne Physiotherapy. Our clinics have the most experienced IMS Physiotherapists in Victoria, Saanich and Vancouver Island.
What is IMS?
IMS is an effective treatment for acute and chronic pain of neuropathic origin. It is based on scientific neurophysiological principles. IMS involves the insertion of fine acupuncture type needles into the body where muscles have shortened or contracted. It is problems at these points that are often at the root of long term pain. While a muscle is tight and contracted it can't heal properly-with IMS you are stimulating a healing process and helping the muscles to relax.
IMS treatment is best suited to treat soft tissue pain that shows no obvious sign of ongoing tissue damage or inflammation, such as many forms of: neck/back pain, tennis elbow, frozen shoulder and fibromyalgia, amongst others. It is often effective when other forms of therapy have failed.
Neuropathy-what happens when nerves start to go wrong
Many people are perplexed by pain that shows no sign of tissue damage or inflammation. This type of pain, known as neuropathic pain, typically occurs when nerves malfunction following minor irritation. Nerves and nerve endings become extremely sensitive and cause innocent, harmless signals to be exaggerated and misinterpreted as painful ones. The result is pain even when extensive medical tests show there is "nothing wrong".
How does IMS work?
IMS is able to treat this neuropathic pain by desensitizing affected nerves and muscles using acupuncture needles. It is important to note that there is no use of electricity with IMS, rather it is the mechanical stimulation of the insertion of the needle into the affected muscles that provides the therapeutic effect. The needle activates a reflex causing the the muscle to release and in doing so, eases the pain. Inserting the needle also creates a minor therapeutic injury to the area, stimulating the body to increase local circulation and activate its healing systems.
The technique is particularly effective for deep muscles that can be difficult or impossible to reach with other forms of treatment. For example, there are some muscles around the spine and pelvis that are too deep to be treated with massage and can only be addressed with a needle.
What is the goal of IMS?
IMS directly treats the cause of the pain by relaxing the shortened muscle and allowing it to return to its normal state. The goal of treatment is to release muscle shortening which presses on and irritates the nerve. Supersensitive areas can be desensitized and the persistent pull of shortened muscles released, thereby restoring motion and function.
The effects of IMS
The effects of IMS are cumulative-each needling session stimulates a certain amount of healing, until eventually the condition can more fully recover and pain dissipates as muscles loosen. It is often successful in breaking the chronic cycle of pain because it permits accurate diagnosis of muscle shortening in deep muscles. It provides lasting relief and has few side effects.
Conditions that can be treated using IMS
A broad range of musculoskeletal problems are now successfully treated using the relatively new technique of Intramuscular Stimulation (IMS). We can treat a variety of ailments using IMS including:
- Achilles Tendonitis
- Acute Sports Injuries
- Arthritic Conditions
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Chronic Tendonitis or Bursitis
- Chronic "Whiplash" Pain
- Chronic Pain
- Golfers Elbow
- Iliotibial Band Syndrome
- Jaw and TMJ Pain
- Low Back Pain
- Myofascial Pain Syndrome
- Myofascial Trigger Points
- Neck Pain
- Patello-femoral Syndrome
- Piriformis Syndrome
- Plantar Fascitis
- Recurrent or Persistent Injuries (including Sports Injuries)
- Repetitive Strain Injuries
- Shin Splints
- Shoulder Injuries (including Frozen Shoulder)
- Spinal Disc Problems
- Tennis Elbow
- Trigger Finger
Who developed IMS?
IMS was developed by Vancouver Physician Dr. Chan Gunn while he was a clinician with the Workers Compensation Board in the 1970's. Dr. Gunn is currently a clinical professor at the University of Washington and teaches IMS at the world renowned Washington Multidisciplinary Pain Center. He also practices in Vancouver, where he has founded the Physical Medicine Research Foundation and the Institute for the Study and Treatment of Pain (ISTOP)
Dr Chan Gunn has been awarded the Order of British Columbia as well as the Order of Canada, the nation's highest honour, for his contributions towards solving chronic pain. He has also been elected Honorary Fellow of Peterhouse Cambridge University.
How to Access IMS Treatment
If you think you have a condition that may benefit from IMS, simply call us to make an appointment with one of our Gunn IMS qualified physiotherapists at either of our Victoria Physiotherapy Clinics. They will assess you and will offer you advice on the best approach to treating your condition, and can answer any further questions that you may have. Physiotherapists at our clinic who utilize IMS have been certified by the Institute for the Study and Treatment of Pain, founded by the developer of the IMS technique, Dr. Chan Gunn M.D.
Frequency of Treatments
Treatments are usually performed once a week but can be spread out over two weeks to allow time between treatments for the body to heal itself. The number of treatments you require will depend on several factors such as the duration and extent of your condition, how much scar tissue is present, and how quickly your body can heal. If the pain is of recent origin, one or two treatments may be all that is necessary. More chronic problems will probably require more treatments. In published studies of patients with low back pain, the average number of IMS treatments required was 8.2.
What is the Difference between Acupuncture and IMS?
IMS draws on both the traditional practice of Acupuncture and recent advances in medical research. It uses some of the tools of Acupuncture but it differs fundamentally in that it is based on current western research in physiology, rather than Chinese Medicine. Compared to Acupuncture which has been around for hundreds of years, IMS is a relatively recent breakthrough. The needles used are the same in both treatments but the application combines conventional western knowledge with traditional techniques to produce a fusion, of sorts.
During IMS treatments, an Acupuncture needle is being used alternatively to it's traditional designation in treating meridians (or channels of energy flow in the body). IMS Practitioners use their knowledge of anatomy and a western type medical exam to choose the appropriate needle points. IMS is applied directly to the site of the pain, rather than to remote points based on maps of energy flow and Chinese philosphy.
The Canadian professor and pain specialist who developed IMS over 20 years, Dr. Chan Gunn says: "Knowledge of IMS can provide an excellent bridge between Eastern and Western medicine, and not only does it bridge the gap, it transcends the limitations of both".
Follow this link to find out more information regarding treatment techniques and the benefits of IMS:
IMS Research Articles
Paraspinal stimulation combined with trigger point needling and needle rotation for the treatment of myofascial pain: a randomized sham-controlled clinical trial
Effectiveness of Dry Needling for Upper-Quarter Myofascial Pain: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis
Dry needling of trigger points with and without paraspinal needling in myofascial pain syndromes in elderly patients
Intramuscular and nerve root stimulation vs lidocaine injection of trigger points in myofascial pain syndrome
Dry needling of muscle motor points for chronic low-back pain. A randomized clinical trial with long-term follow-up
Chronic low back pain in older adults: prevalence, reliability, and validity of physical examination findings
Incidence of hypersensitive areas in posterior shoulder muscles; a survey of two hundred young adults
Beneficial Effects of Dry Needling for Treatment of Chronic Myofascial PAin Persist for 6 Weeks After Treatment Completion
Novel Use of Ultrasound Elastography to Quantify Muscle Tissue Changes After Dry Needling of Myofascial Trigger Points in Patients with Chronic Myofascial Pain
Evidence for the Use of Ischemic Compression and Dry Needling in the Management of trigger points of the Upper Trapezius in Patients with Neck Pain: A Systematic Review